The Apsara National Authority (ANA) is marking the 30 years that Angkor has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List with the Angkor Remembrance Festival, which runs from December 14-16.
Photographs of the ANA’s work since 1992 are on display in front of the Angkor Wat temple during the festival.
ANA deputy director-general Long Kosal told The Post on December 14 that there have been many memorable achievements in the last 30 years.
The authority’s main focuses are conservation – including the restoration and maintenance of temples – and sustainable development. This includes boosting people’s livelihoods, building roads, repairing ancient irrigation systems and improving the infrastructure of the archeological park to serve the tourism industry.
“Another important area we have excelled in is human resource development. When Angkor was added to the list in 1992, we were woefully understaffed and resourced,” he said.
“We had a dire shortage of human resources and funds, but 30 years later the situation has changed. We have Cambodian experts leading many of our projects,” he added.
According to Kosal, the ANA’s greatest accomplishment was when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee declared that Angkor Wat was no longer in danger.
“Within the early years of our development work – 1992 to 2004 – the temples of Angkor were removed from the World Heritage in Danger List. This was because the temples have been made strong and future plans were well-prepared,” he said.
“When Angkor was first listed, Cambodia was still at war and there was unexploded ordnance within the temple complex. By 2004, the civil war had ended. The temples were strong, there were no more mines, and we were able to trim the overgrown foliage from the structures,” he added.
He said that from about 2000, the number of tourists visiting the complex began to swell, until Angkor was one of the most popular tourist sites on the planet. This had led to the growth of Siem Reap province, with many luxurious hotels and guest services appearing. This growth mirrored the rapid development of the Kingdom.
“We have had great success, not only for the ANA, but Cambodia as a whole. When we talk about the protection and preservation of Angkor, we need to understand that everything we have done is for the benefit of the Cambodian people. We must protect and conserve this cultural treasure for this generation and the next. It is part of the Khmer legacy,” said Kosal.
He added that ANA still has a lot of work to do and asked for the participation of people from all walks of life to help protect the priceless heritage area.
“ANS specialists are constantly increasing their knowledge, particularly when it comes to new technologies. Modern techniques will help their conservation and preservation projects progress more quickly,” he said.
The photographic exhibition was designed to help domestic and international visitors understand the hardships that have been overcome to restore the symbol of the Kingdom’s pride.
“Some people believe conservation work is easy. In practice, the work is difficult, and requires a lot of time and patience. We have a lot of challenges that need to be addressed in order to make sure that in the future, no one could accuse Cambodia of failing to manage this great cultural treasure,” he concluded.